Pupil's painting for Holocaust survivor grandfather

By Robyn Rosen, January 28, 2010

A Jewish pupil at a leading public school has created a Holocaust exhibition in memory of his grandfather as an A-level art submission.

Alex Ziff, 18 — one of just eight Jews at Wellington College in Crowthorne, Berkshire — wanted to bring home to his peers the reality of the Shoah.

Alex’s grandfather, Heinz Samson, passed away in September. He had fled to England from Germany, aged 19, but his parents died at Minsk and his sister at Auschwitz.

“The exhibition was a memorial for my grandfather but I also wanted to do it for people at school,” he explained. “I wanted to make something interactive so they would physically get involved and therefore be forced to take an interest in what it was about.”

Alex took 765 wax hand impressions from fellow pupils, who were then asked to say their names into a microphone. They were also given a copy of Heinz Samson’s exit visa from Germany. The piece was assembled in the school’s Crypt Chapel, a room designed to honour the dead.

“My friends thought it was amazing and very powerful,” Alex said.

“I feel it has a role to play in keeping the Holocaust relevant and the memory alive among the younger generations, especially those who are not Jewish.”

After walking past a photograph and synopsis of Heinz Samson’s life — “The Chronicles of the Samson family from Norden, Germany” — the viewer enters the crypt, where a huge frame suspends the hands from above. The names of the contributing pupils are played on a continuous loop. Lighting inside three of the hands represents the three members of Alex’s family who were murdered.

Later this year, the artist will visit Auschwitz as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz scheme.

Last updated: 3:19pm, January 28 2010